Pass through the village of Wiscasset on any summer’s day, and you’ll see hungry customers lined up to order at Red’s Eats. The colorful lobster shack perched on the bank of the Sheepscot River is something of a legend, known for its flocks of visitors, lobster rolls piled high with meat, and penchant for drawing national media attention.

A few locals may grumble that Red’s customers are partly responsible for the traffic tie-ups along Route One, but most businesses in town are happy that tourists stop to eat at the trailer with red striped awning at the corner of Main and Water Streets. Many visitors wander the downtown to see what else the village has to offer-antique and specialty shops, historic homes and museums. Whether you love Red’s Eats or tolerate it, there’s no question it draws attention to the town and pumps up the region’s economy.

Consider the sheer volume of seafood it purveys. From mid-April to mid-October, Red’s goes through eight and a half tons of lobster meat. Every day, the eatery serves two to three gallons of clams, five to six pounds of crabmeat, and 16 to 25 pounds of haddock. “It helps the fishermen and the co-ops, which helps everybody,” says Sue Varney, Wiscasset acting town manager.

During high season, Red’s has five to seven people working inside the food truck, many of them young people in their first jobs. But the indirect employment created by this business and others like it extends well beyond the shack and even the area. Wholesalers like Maine Shellfish Company in Ellsworth and Atlantic Edge Lobster in Boothbay Harbor, Red’s primary sources for lobster, rely on scores of fishermen.

According to Reggie Young, operations manager at the Ellsworth company, about one-quarter to one-third of all the lobster meat they prepare goes to the Wiscasset take-out. They cook, pick, and package the fresh lobster, keep it on ice and deliver it the next morning. The facility employs six to eight people to pick the meat from the shell and two or three people to cook and pack it.

Atlantic Edge is a smaller outfit in nearby Boothbay Harbor. After the lobsters are landed at the dock, they are sorted by size, and by 10 a.m., chefs are putting in their orders, says Chris Hyson, one of the company’s four employees. For places like Red’s, the supplier will cook a few hundred pounds of lobster at a time, which is then hand-picked by one or two employees. The company delivers fresh lobster meat with claws and tails intact, in one, two, and five-pound bags. They also sell their products retail.

Red’s isn’t the only outdoor seafood shack on Wiscasset’s main drag. Sprague Lobster and Clam Bake, across from Red’s on a pier with view and picnic tables, has its own dedicated followers. Sprague serves shore dinners with live lobsters, also sourced from Atlantic Edge, cooked to order on site. “Red’s definitely helps us, but we didn’t choose to open here because they were across the street. We’ve had a stand for 22 years, and doing lobster and clam bakes since 1975,” says Linda Sprague, co-owner.

People visit Red’s for seafood other than lobster, and most of it is locally sourced. Employees of Mill Cove Lobster Pound in Boothbay Harbor clean, cut, and deliver haddock that is landed daily in Portland. Clammers from the Blue Hill peninsula provide the soft-shell clams, shucked by James and Elizabeth Harvey of Prospect. Maine crabmeat comes from suppliers in Wiscasset, Damariscotta and Ellsworth.

In the last decade, Red’s has inspired many TV spots and magazine stories. Now there is a book. Virginia Wright recently co-authored Red’s Eats: World’s Best Lobster Shack (Down East Books). Superlative subtitle aside, the bright red hardback with photographs, recipes, colorful prose and lore will likely be a take-home souvenir for many a Red’s Eats customer.

Location has certainly helped the business. A concession stand selling sandwiches and soft drinks by Wiscasset’s broad tidal river goes back as far as 1938, according to the book. In 1957 the original “Red”, Boothbay native Harold Delano, bought the sandwich stand and introduced hamburgers, hot dogs and fries. Several owners later, Al Gagnon was in charge, putting in more than 30 years as owner and promoter. Dubbed “the lobster-roll king” in an obituary in the Los Angeles Times, he died in 2008 at the age of 71.

Wright says it’s the lobster roll that has made the spot so popular. “After Al Gagnon added it to the menu, travel and food writers started writing about it. Each has at least as much meat as a one-pound lobster,” she says. The roll’s giant size and presentation draw the attention. Chunks of meat are stuffed in a grilled hot dog bun, two whole claws placed at either end, and a whole split tail tops it off. Mayonnaise or butter is served on the side.

Debbie Gagnon Cronk, Al’s daughter, is the book’s co-author and manager at Red’s Eats. Most days she can be found behind the window supervising the crew, pinning up orders, chatting with customers and announcing far-away hometowns over the P.A. Away from the shack she does scheduling, marketing and other tasks involved in running a restaurant, including laundry. She works seven days a week, and occasionally clocks 18-hour days in high season.

With Cronk at the helm, the business keeps charging forward. “It means so many things to so many people,” she says.

Nancy Heiser is an independent writer and editor in Maine.